Poll: Millennial Voters Say Student Debt a Major Influencer in Voting Decisions

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

Presidential candidates should pay more attention to addressing issues around student debt, if a new poll is any indication.

A new poll released this week from Young Invincibles showed nearly two-thirds of Millennial voters, those between the ages of 18 and 34, said a candidate’s position on addressing student debt will be a “major influencer” in their voting decision. Overall, 61 percent of the 800 voters surveyed (42 percent of whom currently have student loan debt) said student debt would be a major influencer. The percentage surged among Democrats, with nearly three-quarters (74 percent) saying it would be a major influencer. Still, 44 percent of Republican voters also responded similarly.

“In a very fractured Republican field with so many different candidates, if half of millennial voters are saying student debt is going to be a major influencer in determining their vote, a candidate that really speaks to the concerns of those voters has a unique opportunity to secure a decent size of the Republican primary electorate,” said Colin Seeberger, strategic campaigns advisor for Young Invincibles. “Let’s be honest – 5 percent to 10 percent, that can be huge in a field of a dozen candidates.”

Young Invincibles also polled voters on other higher education issues, including state funding for higher education, student loan repayment plans and risk-sharing, and income-share agreements.

Across the board, millennial voters regardless of political party affiliation showed strong support for increasing state funding for higher education. Overall, 81 percent said they supported the proposal. Broken down by party, 92 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans, and 82 percent of Independents supported the proposal.

“It was really exceptional just how high those numbers were,” Seeberger said, though adding that it confirms what Young Invincibles had heard anecdotally from students on the ground. “When they learn that states used to cover the majority of the cost to send somebody to school, and they’re not doing that anymore, they’re usually pretty upset about it, whether they’re a young Democrat or a young Republican.”

Millennial voters also said they favored capping borrowers’ loan payments at 10 percent of their income, and requiring schools to share in the risk of borrowing if their graduates default on their loans.

The only proposal young voters appeared to disagree with was income-share agreements, an idea championed by Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida.

When asked if they would support a proposal to “privatize college financing by allowing investors to finance sending a student to school in exchange for a share of their future income,” fewer than one-third of millennial voters overall (32 percent) said they would support the plan. Support was highest among Republican voters, at 41 percent, and lowest among Democratic voters, at 27 percent.

Moving forward, Seeberger said he expects more presidential candidates to be releasing plans to directly address student debt issues, as well as higher education more broadly.

“There’s definitely still time for more candidates to be detailing their plans,” Seeberger said. “Given the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire have two of the largest student debt per graduate figures in the country, it makes sense for candidates to be putting these proposals on the table before voters go to the polls.”


Publication Date: 12/11/2015

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